17 February, 2015BACK TO NEWS
The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union tonight held the official draw for the 2015 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens and the 2015 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Women's Sevens, at a ceremony in Hong Kong.
A total of 40 international teams were drawn into the three competitions, fittingly as this March's event marks the commemoration of 40 Years of Sevens in Hong Kong.
Taking place were the draws for the HSBC Sevens World Series Core Team Competition – among the 15 member teams plus Belgium, who join at the invitation of World Rugby – and the 12-team international Series qualifier tournament, along with the draw for the 12-team Hong Kong Women's Sevens.
In 2013, World Rugby implemented a direct promotion-and-relegation format for the HSBC Sevens World Series. Hong Kong was awarded the honour of hosting this single qualification event in 2014 and has again been granted this distinction in 2015.
The winner of the 12-team international qualifier, featuring two teams from each of World Rugby's six regions, will advance directly to a spot on next year's HSBC SWS, replacing the bottom-ranked core team after the completion of the 2014-15 season.
With the addition of the Qualifier tournament, the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens remains the largest tournament on the HSBC SWS, with 28 participating teams. The 2015 tournament will feature 70 men's matches and the Cup Final of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens, with the pitch action taking place over three days, 27-29 March 2015.
Belgium will be the 59th national team to take the field in Hong Kong over the past 40 years and teams from 32 nations will be competing across the men's and women's sevens tournaments in Hong Kong next month, leaving no doubt that the Hong Kong Sevens is ' Where the World Comes to Play'.
For the qualifier, Asian sevens champions Hong Kong have qualified alongside South Korea as the representatives from Asia. Zimbabwe and Tunisia qualified from Africa while Russia and Spain will represent Europe. Mexico and Guyana represent North America and the Caribbean, while playing for Oceania will be Tonga and Papua New Guinea. Brazil, hosts of the 2016 Olympic Games where Rugby Sevens will debut, have qualified from South America alongside Uruguay.
Guests and officials
Officiating tonight's draw were: Ms Christine Loh, Undersecretary for the Environment for the Hong Kong SAR Government – a key partner in the HKRFU's Green Sevens campaign; Mr Martin Murray, Finance Director of co–title sponsor Cathay Pacific Airways; Kevin Martin, Group General Manager and Regional Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management of co–title sponsor HSBC; HKRFU President Brian Stevenson; HKRFU Chairman Pieter Schats; Ruth Mitchell, director of development for the HKRFU and Tournament Director for the Women's Sevens; and Hong Kong Sevens Tournament Operations Director Rod Mason.
The Core Team Competition will see series leaders South Africa head Pool C alongside France, Argentina and Japan. Fiji, second placed on the international series, top Pool A with Canada, Samoa and Belgium. New Zealand head up Pool B with Australia, Scotland and Portugal, while high-flying United States round out the groups in Pool D, along with England, Kenya and Wales.
For the 12-team HSBC SWS Qualifier competition, all of the participating teams were first banded into four groups of three teams each by World Rugby, based on their performances on the HSBC SWS and at other international sevens events over the preceding two years, and then drawn to complete Pools E, F and G. The HSBC SWS core teams and the 12 teams contesting the Qualifier will not play against each other in Hong Kong.
As a result of the draw for the HSBC SWS Qualifier, Pool E features hosts Hong Kong with Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico. Pool F comprises Russia, Papua New Guinea, South Korea and Tunisia, while lining up in Pool G are Spain, Zimbabwe, Tonga and Guyana.
Following tonight's men's Qualifier draw, Hong Kong sevens senior coach Gareth Baber declared, "Hong Kong is the best sevens tournament in the world and I'm thoroughly looking forward to it. I have seen what this sporting institution means to the people of Hong Kong, but particularly I see what it means to the players and how motivated they are to ensure that they are playing at their absolute best.
Asked for how the tournament might play out, Baber cautioned that "you can't stray too far away from the likes of Fiji and New Zealand", but noted as significant that the United States were "up there in fourth place, looking to get in a good position for the 2016 Olympics".
Twelve teams from five continents will be taking part in the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Women's Sevens 2015, the 17th anniversary of this pioneering women's rugby competition. The 12 teams have been banded based on their current ranking on the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series as well as rankings in other regional competitions and past performances at the Hong Kong Women's Sevens.
In the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens, Pool A features Canada, Argentina, Samoa and Mexico; Pool B is all-Asian affair, bringing together China, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan and Singapore; while in Pool C are Japan, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and Tunisia.
Hong Kong women's sevens coach Anna Richards, who was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2014, was "excited about" the women's tournament, noting the strength of Women's Sevens World Series teams China, who Hong Kong face in Pool B, and Canada, but also welcoming newcomers Mexico and Argentina, who she said "strengthened the competition".
With 28 participating teams and the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens Cup Final, the Sevens will hosts 71 games in 2015 and a corresponding increase in the non-stop entertainment for which the Hong Kong Sevens is renowned worldwide.
HKRFU 40 Years of Sevens commemorations
Among the initiatives launched by the HKRFU to commemorate 40 Years of Sevens in Hong Kong is the naming of a group of all-time best players in Hong Kong, fittingly dubbed 'Hong Kong's Magnificent Seven'.
There is enormous competition for this honour among the stellar roll call of rugby legends that have graced the Hong Kong tournament, including: David Campese, Mark Ella, Michael Lynagh, George Gregan, Zinzan Brooke, Jonah Lomu, John Kirwan, Joost van de Westhuizen, Glenn Osborne, John Maxwell, Waisale Serevi, Tomasi Cama, Mesake Resari, Simon Amor, Ben Gollings, and Neil Back, to highlight but a few.
The first two recipients of this vaunted honour were named tonight as China's Zhang Zhiqiang – reigning top try scorer at the Hong Kong Sevens since the inception of the Series in 2000, and English sevens legend Ben Gollings, all-time leading points scorer in Hong Kong since 2000.
The remaining five members of the team will be announced, one per week for the coming five weeks leading up to the men's sevens, with the complete team to be revealed at the 40 Years of Sevens Gala Dinner in Hong Kong on Wednesday evening, 25 March 2015.
The HKRFU is also polling fans to find the best player to have represented Hong Kong at its home Sevens since 1976. For more information or to vote, fans should visit:
The HKRFU has announced an expanded lineup of local and international entertainment for this year's tournament, including a headline performance from international recording artists the Village People as well as the debut appearance of Kung Fu Rugby, reinforcing the Hong Kong event's reputation for groundbreaking and compelling entertainment amid the rugby revelry.
The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens will be played from 27 to 29 March 2015 at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium. For more information please visit the official website at http://www.hksevens.com.